Shape Up America! Newsletter
Home for the Holidays
Does heading home for the holidays push all of your
stress buttons and fill you with fear and
apprehension? If so, you are not alone. For some
people, visions of large quantities of tempting
food, holiday parties or excessive drinking cause
alarm; for others, family interactions and the
re-emergence of destructive family dynamics are
worrisome. Often underlying it all is the fear of
losing a daily routine.
Loss of Routine Does NOT Mean Loss of
For many people, a daily routine is a ritual that
keeps us calm and centered and helps us stay in
control. The concern is that losing your routine may
mean losing control over your eating habits,
eliciting the fear of overeating. It is important to
think about the benefits of being flexible at
holiday time and how you might constructively
deviate from your routine without losing control.
A little forward planning may help allay your
concerns and help you navigate the holiday
challenges. For example, do you usually take an
early morning walk each day, but feel you can’t do
this while home for the holidays? Perhaps you can
find a family member who shares your enjoyment of a
walk. Plan to walk together at an hour that suits
you both, even if it isn’t the hour you would
And what about all the food? Do your hosts want to
feed you a big breakfast each day when you prefer to
eat something considerably more modest? Do they
believe in three square meals a day while you do
just fine on only two? Figure out what your
specific concern is and how you might moderate your
intake in the face of the tempting bounty of the
holidays. Perhaps you can offer to prepare a few
meals yourself. If you feel someone is pushing food
on you, have a private conversation with that person
and calmly set some limits.
State your case clearly and calmly
The key is to negotiate a working arrangement that
works for you and your family. Learning how to
state what you want calmly but firmly and learning
how to negotiate a compromise that works for
everyone is a skill. The only way to learn it is to
give it a try. Be prepared to listen carefully to
what others have to say. You may learn something
new or gain valuable insight as you discuss your
Pitching in strengthens your position
If you pitch in and help prepare the meal, it can be
easier to have it your way. You may want to use
recipes that are lower in fat or menus that
incorporate more vegetables or whole grains. You
don’t necessarily have to explain yourself but in
some families, it may be helpful to explain what
you’re doing and why. Preparing a meal can be an
expression of love. Food that is thoughtfully and
healthfully prepared is a holiday gift for everyone.
Put the Brakes on Alcohol
When it comes to drinking, there are many options.
You can make a nonalcoholic drink that looks like
the real thing. For example, a tomato juice with a
lemon resembles a Bloody Mary. A sparkling water
with lime resembles a gin and tonic. If your choice
is wine, sip it slowly to stretch it out as long as
possible. Or limit alcohol by alternating a glass
of wine with a glass of seltzer, water or diet soda.
The True Meaning of the Holidays
In the end, it is worth remembering what the
holidays are really about—an opportunity to express
love, care and affection for one another.
Traditionally, the holiday meal is one way of
expressing that meaning. The holiday is associated
with specific foods, some of which may set you up
for a binge. It may help you stay calm and in
control if you take your mind off the food and focus
instead on the real meaning of the holidays. That
meaning may relate to your religion or beliefs, or
it may be the sharing of your family ties, your
shared history and experiences, or the sharing of love.
If this sharing causes discomfort or stress, try to
identify your own personal challenges and to
mentally prepare yourself to be flexible. The goal
is to handle the holidays as graciously as possible.
And don’t forget your sense of humor!
If all else fails, you can rent a fun video. Try
“Home for the Holidays” starring Holly Hunter.
If Food Binges Threaten, Don’t Fly Solo
If you have visited the Support Center on the Shape
Up America! website, and clicked on “Information
Please!” you may have noticed the information and
quiz on Binge Eating Disorder.
People with Binge Eating Disorder:
- have frequent episodes of eating more food
within a two-hour period than most other people
would eat during a similar time under similar
- feel a lack of control over their eating during
- experience at least three of the following while
binge eating. They:
- eat much more rapidly than normal
- eat until they feel uncomfortably full
- eat large amounts of food when they are not
- eat alone because they are embarrassed by how
much food they have eaten
- feel disgusted, depressed, or very guilty after
- on average, binge eat at least two days a week
for six months.
When people write us about their struggles with
bingeing, they sometimes tell us that since they
don't have the financial means to seek help, they
try to stop on their own. We encourage you NOT to go
it alone and to GET HELP instead. In fact, the
longer you wait to seek help, the harder it is to
stop. And the longer your binge problem persists,
the more damage will be done. If you feel you have
a problem, quick action is urgently needed.
If you are enrolled in a school, first check to see
if your school has a professional counselor trained
in eating disorders who can help you out. Or check
the yellow pages of your phone book for a clinic
that specializes in binge eating disorders. If you
have to pay out of your own pocket, many
psychiatrists and psychologists are willing to
charge on a sliding scale. That means they charge
people with less money lower rates, and some provide
counseling to needy people for free. It never hurts
to inquire and you may get what you need at a price
you can afford.
Soda in Schools: So What’s the Big Deal?
Soda is in the news a lot lately. The American
Beverage Association (ABA), which represents
companies that manufacture and distribute beverages
like Coca-Cola and Pepsi, recently released a report
stating that the amount of soft drinks sold in our
nation’s schools dropped by 24% between 2002 and
2004. But sales of sports drinks rose by 70%.
If you’re wondering whether soda causes childhood
obesity—well, if only it were that simple.
Childhood obesity is a complex problem caused by
many factors. We believe that taking sugared
beverages out of schools is a good idea, but we do
not expect that making that one change can reverse
the rising rates of childhood obesity. To prevent
childhood obesity, parents, teachers, caregivers,
children and teens need to make many changes in
their eating, drinking, exercise and lifestyle habits.
Why all the brouhaha over soda? The reason is that
when parents send their children to school, they
want to know their children are safe and that
schools have the best interests of their children in
mind. Children and teens do not understand all of
the nutritional implications of their food and
beverage choices. Given the escalating rates of
childhood obesity, providing children with beverages
that offer calories and little or no nutritional
benefits is not helpful.
This past summer, the ABA issued a set of voluntary
guidelines for selling beverages in school vending
machines. The ABA guidelines state that in
elementary schools, only bottled water and 100
percent juice should be sold. Our comment is that
the focus should be on providing primarily water and
milk to this age group.
For middle school students, the ABA guidelines are
more complex. Bottled water, 100 percent juice,
sports drinks, no-calorie soft drinks and
low-calorie juice drinks can be offered when school
is in session. Full-calorie soft drinks and
full-calorie juice drinks (with 5 percent or less
juice) are available after school only.
We feel that bottled water is the best of these
choices, although water fountains are free and
should be available to all children at all times. We
would like to see low fat or fat free milk as an
option, as well. While 100 percent juice is
nutritionally better than soft drinks, it should be
used in moderation because it contains calories.
Sports drinks are not needed when water will do,
plus many contain sodium and unnecessary calories.
Some no-calorie soft drinks contain caffeine and
should not be offered to children. Although
low-calorie soft drinks contain fewer calories than
full-calorie versions, the nutritional value in both
types of products, as well as in full-calorie juice
drinks, is minimal.
At the high school level, the ABA guidelines call
for providing a variety of beverage choices, such as
bottled water, 100 percent juice, sports drinks and
juice drinks, with no more than 50 percent of the
vending selections as soft drinks. We agree that
high school students should have a wider variety of
choices than younger children. But we urge parents
to insure that:
- the high school in their community makes water
fountains available at all times.
- the vending machines emphasize bottled water,
low fat or fat free milk and 100 percent juice, as
well as fruits (e.g., oranges and apples) and
vegetables (e.g., bags of carrots).
- the school curriculum allows for educating high
school students about how to use the food label so
they can better understand the role of calories in
weight management, and how to evaluate the calorie
content of a product relative to the nutrient
delivery of that product.
Winter Trails Day—January 7, 2006
Winter Trails Day is a special program that
gives children and adults the chance to try
snowshoeing and cross-country skiing FREE OF CHARGE
at nearly 100 parks and recreation centers across
North America. Geared toward families, hikers,
school groups and youth organizations that are new
to snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, Winter
Trails events provide the opportunity to discover
the fitness benefits and fun in these easy-to-learn
winter sports. Equipment will be provided. Many
venues will also offer educational programs and
Winter Trails is presented by SnowSports Industries
America (SIA), American Hiking Society (AHS), and
Cross Country Ski Areas Association (CCSAA). For
more information, go to
Recipe of the Month
This recipe features broccoli, endive and red peppers, a colorful mix for the holiday season.
BROCCOLI ENDIVE SALAD
Makes 6 servings
- 1 1-pound package frozen broccoli spears (2
- 3/4 cup low-fat French or Italian salad
- 1 pound Belgian endive (6 cups)
- 2 red bell peppers, cut in strips, or 2 cups
tiny tomatoes (2 cups)
- 1 tablespoon pine nuts
Blanch broccoli by placing it into a pot of boiling
water for 1 minute. Then pour into a colander and
run under cold water to stop cooking. Drain
thoroughly in the colander.
- Toss broccoli with 1/4 cup of the salad
- Cut the cone-shaped core out of the bottom of
each endive. The leaves should separate. Toss gently
with another 1/4 cup of the dressing.
- To compose the salad on a platter or on
individual plates, lay the endive leaves around the
sides. Set the pepper strips on the leaves. Place
the marinated broccoli in the middle, drizzle the
remaining 1/4 cup dressing over all. Top with pine
Nutrition Information Per Serving:
96 calories, 3 grams total fat, 0 grams saturated
fat, 0 grams cholesterol, 272 milligrams sodium, 5
grams dietary fiber
Source: National Cancer Institute’s 5 A Day
HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM SHAPE UP AMERICA!